Vineyard Sprays to Improve Ripening in Merlot (in collaboration with VT) (2017)

This study examines the impact of different desiccation sprays on the resulting juice and wine chemistry of Merlot. 8 rows of Merlot from the same block were divided into 4 pairs, each pair of rows receiving a different treatment. The following treatments were performed: 1) Control (no spray), 2) RG 1950 spray in collaboration with Dr. Mizuho Nita, where rows were sprayed 4 times weekly, over four weeks, starting from veraison, 3) VT Tech Dehydration spray in collaboration with Dr. Bruce Zoecklein, where rows were treated on the fruit zone at approximately 19 degrees Brix using a 2% solution of methyl esters of fatty acids in a 2% solution of potassium carbonate in water, and 4) Sugar Express (Miller Chemical) Spray (4-10-40 Nitrogen-Phosphate-Potash), where rows were treated on the full canopy at approximately 19 degrees Brix at 10 lbs/acre. All other viticultural and winemaking practices were equal. Grapes were harvested on September 20, after processing musts were inoculated with D21, and each fermentation received a 16 day maceration. The two VT sprays had the greatest impact on Brix and Average Berry weight during ripening. Fluctuations are due to rain events around September 2 and September 6. The VT sprays produced juice with higher Brix, although the Zoecklein spray had higher TA and the RG 1950 had lower TA. Wine chemistry showed higher ethanol for these two sprays, higher TA and tartaric acid for all three sprays, and lower levels of lactic acid. Color intensity was increased by the desiccation sprays. Anthocyanins were slightly lowered for the VT sprays, although polymeric anthocyanin was increased for these sprays. Tannin showed slight increases for these sprays as well. These phenolic differences, however, were not very great.

Overall, the desiccation sprays had a tendency to lower the Herbaceous character of the wines. Overall Aromatic Intensity and Body tended to be increased by the Zoecklein spray, although RG 1950 also had a slight tendency to increase Body. These two sprays also had a slight tendency to increase Fruit Intensity, although this was weak. In general, the control wine was more similar to the Sugar Express treatment, and the two Virginia Tech desiccation sprays were more similar to each other. Preference trends were hard to determine, but the Sugar Express treatment tended to be less preferred. The two Virginia Tech desiccation sprays were perhaps slightly more preferred control when considering that these two wines were fairly similar to each other. These results suggest that desiccation sprays may be a valuable tool in Virginia winemaking, and studies like these merit more rigorous analysis, especially with regard to sensory attributes of the wines. These studies should be continued to be repeated, on multiple varieties over multiple vintages.

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Vineyard Sprays to Improve Ripening in Cabernet Franc (in collaboration with Bruce Zoecklein) (2017)

This study examines the impact of vineyard desiccant sprays on grape ripening and wine quality in Cabernet Franc. A block of Cabernet Franc was divided so that part of the block was backpack-sprayed with a desiccant spray (2% solution of methyl esters of fatty acids in 2% solution of potassium carbonate in water) provided by Bruce Zoecklein. The spray treatment occurred when the grapes had reached approximately 19 Brix (September 22, 2017) and clusters were coated until dripping with spray. Grapes were harvested on September 28 and were processed identically. Wines were pressed after 11 days of maceration. Cluster weight, total anthocyanins, and tannin were decreased in sprayed fruit. Brix was increased and acidity was decreased in sprayed fruit as well. Alcohol and potassium were higher in the sprayed wine, and acidity was lowered. Color, tannin, and polymeric anthocyanin were also higher in the sprayed wine, in spite of opposite trends being seen in this regard with the grapes. Overall, these wines were found to be significantly different. There was a tendency for the desiccated wine to have higher Body. Desiccated wines had a slight tendency for higher Acidity and Astringency, and lower Fruit Intensity. However, more sensory studies are needed to confirm these trends. There may have been a very slight preference for the non-desiccated wine. In the future, more studies should be performed on fruit desiccation, as it has potential to be a useful tool in Virginia grape growing. These studies should include the timing of desiccation sprays before harvest.

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The Impact of Crop Management Timing on Wine Quality (2017)

This study examines the impact of the date of cluster thinning on juice and wine chemistry. The goal was to attempt to dilute the impact of potassium uptake during veraison by cluster thinning at later dates, in order to keep the pH lower. A block of Cabernet Franc was cluster thinned either pre-veraison (around Mid-August), halfway through veraison (around the end of August), and post-veraison (first or second week of September). Every third row received one of these treatments, so that treatments were evenly dispersed throughout the block to minimize variation. All grapes were harvested on the same day, and all other treatments between each juice and wine lot were identical. The later the clusters were dropped, the higher the average berry and cluster weight. The later the clusters were dropped, the lower the Brix and phenolic compounds. YAN was slightly higher in later cluster thinning sweeps. In general, wine made from later cluster dropping had slightly less ethanol, and slightly higher TA and tartaric acid. Color intensity was decreased with later cluster thinning, as were most phenolic compounds. Thus, earlier cluster thinning tended to enhance grape “ripeness” characteristics. For the descriptive analysis, there was a strong tendency for the 50% veraison treatment to have higher Herbaceous/Green character (LSD=0.43). There was a slight tendency for this wine to also have higher Bitterness. Pre-veraison cluster thinning may have had higher Fruit Intensity. Post-veraison cluster thinning may have had slightly lower Overall Aromatic Intensity and Astringency. In general, the wines which were cluster thinned at 50% veraison were most preferred. These results suggest that the beneficial impacts of cluster thinning prior to veraison on chemistry may not be beneficial towards flavor profiles. However, this study should be repeated over multiple vintages, at different sites, and with different grape varieties to better understand how this timing of cluster thinning affects a Virginia appellation.

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The Effect of Canopy Area on Ripening and Wine Quality (2017)

This study examines the impact of canopy height and ripening on wine quality in Merlot. Three sets of five rows of Merlot were hedged to different heights in mid-June: 52 inches (High canopy), 44 Inches (Medium canopy, normal height), and 36 inches (Short canopy). All other vineyard treatments were identical. Not much additional shoot growth occurred after hedging. Grapes were harvested on August 25 and processed into separate T Bins. All other treatments were identical. Juice Brix was slightly higher for the short canopy compared to the higher canopy. This may have been due to a seeming resistance to rain dilution seen in the short canopy vine compared to the medium and higher canopy vines. The ethanol, TA, color, and tannin increased with decrease in canopy height, and pH decreased with canopy height. Overall, descriptive analysis had difficulty distinguishing the wines consistently. The short canopy treatment tended to have slightly more Bitterness and Overall Aromatic Intensity. The short canopy wine also exhibited some slight reduction relative to the other two wines, which may have influenced results. Fruit Intensity and Astringency tended to vary between wines between tastings. In general, the high canopy wine tended to be the most preferred. Future studies should examine how bud fruitfulness and yield are impacted by multiple vintages of heavy hedging, pick fruit at different times depending on which treatment is deemed “optimally” ripe, and hedging shoots when they reach their designated height to try to force lateral growth. More studies are needed to confirm the trends seen in this study, as well.

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The Impact of Bagging Grape Clusters on Grape Ripening and Quality (in Collaboration with VT) (2017)

This study examines the impact of bagging grape clusters during the growing season on grape and wine flavor, chemistry, microbiology, and phenolics. The vineyard uses organic grape growing practices, and the goal of this project was to see if bagging grape clusters would improve disease resistance without negatively impacting grape and wine quality. The bags used were 19x27cm white paper bags with micropores. Corot Noir grapes in one block experienced 4 treatments: 1) not bagged, 2) bagged at pea-sized berries, 3) bagged at berry touch, and 4) bagged at veraison. Because of a prediction of reduced disease incidence in bagged clusters relative to unbagged clusters, and because unbagged, rotting clusters were going to be dropped during the season, green harvesting of the treatment clusters was undertaken on lagging blooming clusters at berry set in order to attempt to keep crop levels similar between treatments. Lagging clusters were also not bagged on treatment rows. Control and treatment grapes were harvested 2 days apart from each other, and the 3 treatments were combined into one must to ferment. Both control and treatment musts received a 10% saignee, both were inoculated with Renaissance Ossia yeast, and all other treatments between wines were equal. Both bins received 2 weeks extended maceration. Bagging clusters might have reduced incidence of black rot, with the earlier bagging treatments being more effective; however, more intensive work is needed to confirm this. The grape treatments generally exhibited slight increases in berry weight and cluster weight, as well as increases in malic acid, pH, and YAN. Juice and wine chemistry was not much impacted, except that acidity was lowered in the bagged treatment. Bagging clusters lowered the microbial content of the juice, although wine was not much impacted. All phenolic and color parameters, in grape and wine, were either reduced or did not change as a result of bagging. 64% of people were able to distinguish the wines in triangle testing, suggesting a statistically significant difference between them (p<0.001). Of those who correctly distinguished between the wines, there was not a major preference for one wine over the other, perhaps slightly favoring no bags. There were strong trends for the unbagged treatments to have higher Overall Aromatic Intensity and higher Acidity. There was a slight tendency for Fruit Intensity to be higher in the unbagged treatments as well.

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The Effect of Leaf Removal at Bloom vs Leaf Removal at Veraison on Ripeness (2016)

This study examines the impact of removing the 4 most basal leaves from Cabernet Sauvignon vines at 30% bloom. One section of a vineyard block was not leafed at bloom, while another section underwent this leafing treatment. Both treatments received leaf-pulling at veraison. All other vineyard and fermentation practices were the same. Leaf removal at bloom appeared to slightly reduce berry weight, cluster weight, Brix, and yield. Grape phenolics and TA were slightly increased by bloom leaf removal. Wine produced with leaf removal at bloom had lower ethanol, color intensity, and tannin. Judges did not find the wines to be significantly different, and there were no strong preference trends for either wine. Early leaf removal may have had a very weak tendency to increase Overall Aromatic Intensity. The lack of differences are likely due in part to the particular vintage (weather events may have equalized the treatments) and in part due to vegetative growth reducing the effectiveness of the bloom leaf removal. More studies need to be performed in this area in order to draw more conclusions.

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The Effect of Desiccation Spray on Ripeness in Chambourcin (2016)

This study examines the impact of a desiccation spray on the chemical and sensory profiles of Chambourcin grapes and wine. One block of Chambourcin was divided so that one section of fruit was sprayed with a potassium bicarbonate desiccant, and another section was not sprayed. The desiccated fruit was sprayed at the beginning of veraison and then weekly for a total of four sprays over four weeks. The fruit was harvested and processed on the same day, and all treatments between the fruit were identical. The desiccation treatment slightly concentrated berry components, although not many differences were found in wine. The desiccation treatment, however, lowered the color intensity and slightly lowered the tannin and anthocyanin content in the wine. Other parameters were not greatly affected. At one tasting, the wines were found to be significantly different (p<0.05), and in general there was a preference for the wine made without desiccation. At another tasting, there was no significant difference between wines, and no major preference trends. More studies on desiccation across vintages would be beneficial to further elucidate the impact of these treatments in Virginia.

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The Effect of Crop Adjustment and Desiccation Spray on Ripeness (2016)

This study examines the impact of different crop adjustment techniques on yield, juice and wine chemistry, phenolic and color profiles, and sensory characteristics of Merlot. The four treatments in this trial were performed in the same vineyard block as follows: two control rows, two rows sprayed with RG 1950 desiccant spray, two rows with clusters dropped at veraison down to one cluster per shoot, and two rows with clusters pinched at approximately 20 Brix. All other treatments, through vinification, were the same. The desiccation spray exhibited faster ripening kinetics and lower average berry weight. At harvest, Brix and pH were not very different, but TA was higher in the treatments. No differences were apparent in wine chemistry. All treatments exhibited increases in color intensity, especially the cluster dropped treatment. In spite of increasing color intensity all treatments lowered anthocyanins. The desiccant treatment slightly increased tannins. The week before harvest, 6 inches of rain fell, which may have reduced the impact of these treatments. Overall, desiccation and crop reduction had a slight tendency to enhance Fruit Intensity. The treatments also tended to enhance Overall Aromatic Intensity. These trends were weak and often conflicted between tastings. There seemed to be a general preference for wines produced from dropped clusters and desiccated clusters, but this varied. The rain event may have reduced the impact of these treatments. This study suggests that crop adjustment techniques have the potential to impact fruit and wine quality in Virginia, but much more studies are needed to fully quantify this impact as well as to account for vintage variation.

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